More Interviews with Four Veterans

A story by: Evelyn Marshak | Added: 2013
Waterbury, CT
2013

I went to a pancake breakfast on recent Sunday morning and was lucky to get these four veterans to talk with me… #1 Interview - Dan “ I enlisted in the Navy for 3 1/2 years during the Korean War period and trained at the Bainbridge Naval Station,” Dan told me as we sat around a table at the fundraiser pancake breakfast. “I would say I was lucky because my girlfriend wrote to me and we did eventually marry when I returned home from my tour of duty. For a while I was at the Newport Naval Hospital and then my assignment changed and I served on a ship.” This man, like almost all I have interviewed, really did not seem to think that serving their country in time of war was doing anything special. They tend to be modest but Dan’s wife was with us and she smiled at him a great deal. It worked because he did answer my questions. Dan told me that he felt like he was the same person when his enlistment was up. The highlight of his time on a ship based in the Mediterranean Sea, was a chance to make a trip to Paris. I heard this often from any veteran who was lucky enough to get to Paris. To get a chance to see the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triumph in person and enjoy this city of romance was often mentioned as a highlight of being in the service. There was no internet and international travel was not as common as today. Getting to see Paris was like a dream come true. No family member offered to make him a special meal the day before he departed for Bainbridge or when he returned but then it seemed it was no special deal to join the Navy and serve his country. #2 Interview - James James told me that he enlisted in the army and served in Germany but not during a time of war. He trained at Fort Riley in Kansas and was assigned to a tank outfit. “Two of my buddies enlisted at the same time and we served together in Germany as we had been promised. It was a time of rebuilding the 10th Division and many men were needed so we wrangled this deal. “As I said, it wasn’t wartime and we never thought of being afraid, We had enough free time to enjoy the German beer, cognac and Fasching, the pre-Easter party time, which reminded me of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We were unfamiliar with Fasching.” I was also unfamiliar with Fasching so I used the net to learn about the event that remained in James’ memory for so many years. You may also call it Karnival or Fasanacht. Celebrating the holiday is mostly observed in Catholic Germany which is the southern part of the country. Switzerland and Austria also enjoy the pre-Lenten festivities. “People don’t realize how small Europe is. From the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans is a five hour flight but Europe isn’t that big. This meant if we had a few days off, we had time to travel to Paris or Copenhagen, Denmark. Okay it was winter time and it was much colder there because these cities are closer to the Arctic Circle. Still being in these capital cities it was extraordinary. We had so many beautiful things to see and memories to make.” #3 I never had the chance to interview the third person. I was leaving the Elks Club when the hostess for the event asked me I might be interested in hearing her aunt’s story. At age 90, her aunt was not available for an interview. But the niece said she was a WAVE during World War II and her assignment involved doing clerical work in New York City. 
 She mentioned, “I have to admit that my aunt is a tough lady and I think that was a requirement to work in a major city during wartime. I learned about her service record when I applied for veterans’ benefits. I am happy for her and that her service time is being remembered. The money will really make her situation easier.” #4 “I was a boiler man on a ship off the coast of Vietnam which meant I got to see a lot of Southeast Asia including Hong Kong and Thailand particularly Bangkok, which was simply beautiful. “Being a boiler man meant I worked in the engine room. My service was between 1966 and 1967. “My job meant swift boats and PT boats would be brought into a safe harbor and we would work on the cover of darkness to replace the vessel’s engine. Our ship was labeled as an internal engine combustion repair vessel. “It wasn’t the job that gave me the biggest fright of my service time. We were to board a plane that would take us nearer to our home state when we were hit by sniper fire. “We were at an airport at Ben Hoa when the snipers struck. I keep thinking that I was so near to going home and now we were faced with sniper fire. Luckily we made it out of Vietnam.”